The University of Alabama basketball team’s NCAA Tournament chances took another major hit on Saturday when the Crimson Tide closed the regular season with a 68-66 loss at Texas A&M.
Although Alabama (17-14 overall, 8-10 SEC) has numerous big wins on its resume, no one will be able to overlook the five straight losses to close the regular season. It’s the Crimson Tide’s longest losing streak since 2004.
Freshman Collin Sexton led all scorers with 23 points.
“This was a game between two physical teams who were playing hard to get a win [Saturday],” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said in his postgame press conference. “Texas A&M is a very talented team and they were ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation this year for a reason. Every team in the SEC has had some ups and downs this year, especially in a conference as tough as this one. They held us off. They played well and rebounded the ball well. They are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country and have a lot of size.
“A lot of times it isn’t about what we didn’t do. Let’s give Texas A&M credit. They played a very hard game to the very end.”
The scored was tied 11 times, with 15 lead changes.
The play that will have fans talking long into the night is the technical foul Sexton was assessed in the final minute when Texas A&M freshman TJ Starks was ejected for bumping and pushing the guard in the face.
The Aggies (20-11, 9-9) were able to shoot 4 free throws off the play, but Alabama just 2. Sexton made one from the line and Alabama grabbed the rebound to give sophomore forward Braxton Key a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. He missed, but hit at the buzzer after Texas A&M had put the game away.
At minimum, the loss puts Alabama squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Alabama probably needs more than one win at SEC Tournament
Since there are always conference tournament upsets that take away some expected spots, Alabama will likely need to win at least two games at the SEC Tournament in St. Louis to feel good about its chances of making the NCAA field. Anything short of that and the Crimson Tide almost certainly will be making another NIT appearance.
Alabama is the No. 9 seed in the tournament will get a rematch with Texas A&M on Thursday at noon Thursday. The winner will face top-seeded Auburn on Friday.
Collin Sexton needed more help
Alabama was without freshman guard Herb Jones (head), junior forward Daniel Giddens didn’t play and sophomore guard Dazon Ingram fouled out with 9 minutes to go. It left the Crimson Tide with just seven scholarship players.
All eyes turned to Sexton, who had a season-high 7 assists and 4 rebounds, but without Ingram the Aggies were able to zero in on him defensively.
Alabama’s only other scorer to reach double digits was junior forward/center Donta Hall with 12 points.
Alabama has a problem closing out games
The Crimson Tide took a 53-52 lead with 4:39 remaining, but Texas A&M made four of its last five field goals to secure the home win.
Late flourishes by opponents have been a problem of late for Alabama, which is often a sign of youth and a team being tired. But the Aggies also finished with a slight edge in numerous key categories, including rebounds (46-40), points off turnovers (15-11), second-chance points (16-11), bench points (14-9), points in the paint (32-28) and fast-break points (11-5).
They also had more balanced scoring. Tyler Davis had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Admon Gilder scored 14 and D.J. Hogg had 11.